On Neophilia, the eternal struggle

“I don’t like to rewatch movies,” it has been said. “And, if I can help it,” it has been added, without any of the necessary reservations, “I don’t usually watch old movies.” The speaker, who remains nameless, but whom you yourself have probably encountered, might as well have appropriated his or her mental attitude from that parody of modernity, Ada Chiostri Polan in Bertolucci’s epic 1900. In one exemplary scene, for instance, Ada tosses her perfectly fine poetry out the window of a moving car so as to avoid contaminating herself with the old (see the scene at the 3:50 mark in the embedded video). Though either example is ostensibly comprised of two claims, the unwillingness to return to what has been known and the aversion to what is known, both are in fact animated by the same unquenchable and untenable desire for all things new. Ironically, despite its pretension to novelty, neophilia, as I will demonstrate, is an old phenomenon.

Continue reading

When a documentary functions as an artistic credo: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Jiro Dreams of Sushi is available on Netflix.)

When one first learns that the price for a plate at Jiro’s world-renowned sushi restaurant begins at 30,000 yen, or $300, the mind reacts in two ways. Either it balks or it bargains. If it balks, then perhaps it is reminded of similar outrageously expensive food, like that $1,000 pizza in New York. In that case, the rebarbative concoction, loaded as it is with caviar and lobster, wastes its ingredients while it overcharges for them. Nevermind the idiocy of baking truffles in creme fraiche (where the fat from the latter and the heat from the oven overpowers any nuance in the flavour of the former) and serving it on a pan of bread, the whole thing arrives to the customer a greasy, congealed mess fit only for the blind and nouveau riche. Don’t even get me started on the $25,000 sundae. If I wanted to ingest five grams of gold I would just drink a few bottles of Goldschläger in a single sitting (at least that way the alcohol would stand a good chance of blocking out the thought of wasting so much money). Compared to this then, $300 for an actual meal seems like a steal.
Continue reading